• Rally
  • Two-Minute Stress Relievers You Can Do at Work

Two-Minute Stress Relievers You Can Do at Work

By Phat X. Chiem | June 24, 2015 | Rally Health

Stress is the silent killer lurking in our offices. The effects of working under chronic stress are well known: high blood pressure, heart problems, impaired sleep, overeating, anxiety, and depression among them.

We all understand stress is bad for our health. But many of us deal with it in the best way we know how — by ignoring it. Like elite athletes, we work through the pain. We even brag about it.

“We overvalue the work culture and we undervalue the relaxation culture,” says Dr. Meredith Sagan, who runs a holistic psychiatry practice in Los Angeles. “We spend so much time developing our working muscle, we don’t have the balance of building our relaxation muscle.”

The first step in reducing stress is to develop more self-awareness of your own stress level. “So many people work in a chronic state of stress,” Sagan says, “they don’t even know they’re stressed. Then they try to take a vacation and they can’t sit still.”

By being aware of your anxiety while it’s happening, you can take immediate steps to calm your mind. And it doesn’t require a sweaty hour of yoga, either. Here are five ways to alleviate your stress in less time than it takes to write an email to your boss.

Say hello to a friend: Send a quick note to an old pal you haven’t seen in awhile. Drop a comment on a friend’s Facebook page. Chat up a colleague passing by your desk.

“Making social connections is very important for relieving stress,” says Dr. Alice Boyes, a former clinical psychologist and author of The Anxiety Toolkit (Perigee/Penguin, 2015). “What you’re doing is signaling to your brain that you’re safe. Building and maintaining relationships helps us feel secure. By reaching out, you’re also getting out of your head and whatever drama you’re feeling.”

Focus on your feet: Start by putting all of your attention on your lower extremities. Stretch your legs and wriggle your toes. Then curl them downward, clench your feet as tightly as it’s comfortable and hold for a few seconds. Now take a deep breath, exhale, and release, creating a sense of space.

“As soon as we pay more attention to the body than the mind, stress instantly falls away,” Sagan explains. “This is a very simple skill to develop. You can do this while you’re sitting with your boss at a board meeting. Stress management doesn’t have to be separate from work. It can happen at work as you’re working.”

Balance your thoughts: When we’re feeling anxious about a big meeting or an impending deadline, the tendency is to focus on the worst possible outcome. Avoid this habit by learning to differentiate between anxiety that’s based on opinion and anxiety that’s based on facts.

“You want to turn unproductive worrying into productive worrying,” says Dr. Penny B. Donnenfeld, a Manhattan psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety and depression. “Instead of predictions of catastrophe, you can think: ‘I need to get this thing to my boss tomorrow. Where in my schedule can I get this done?’”

Go on a mini mental vacation: Take a moment to go to a really wonderful place, but only in your mind. Be as detailed and specific in your imagination as possible. Think about what you’re seeing, touching, hearing, tasting, and smelling. So if you’re dreaming about being on the beach in Bali, you might imagine smelling the salty air and feeling the sun on your face.

“As soon as you start imagining you’re in a calmer state, your body will respond,” Donnenfeld says. “Your muscles will relax, your heart rate will drop, and the stress hormones in your blood will go down.”

Take a humor break: Read something that makes you laugh. Send a friend a playful note. Watch a viral kitty video online. Isn’t this why the Internet was invented?

“The idea is to provide a really quick boost of positive emotion,” Boyes says.

Research has also shown that a good laugh relaxes tense muscles, speeds more oxygen to your organs, lowers your blood pressure, and increases the endorphins released by your brain.

So even on crazy days, don’t let stress get the best of you. All it takes is a minute — or two — to turn your mood around.

Phat X. Chiem
Rally Health